mural art

The following guest poet is by Lower East Side-based photographer Ana Candelaria

As I was heading home this past Saturday after three hours of photographing street art on the Lower East Side — with my camera battery down to 10 percent — I unexpectedly ran into an artist whose work was unfamiliar to me. Impressed with what I saw, I introduced myself and found out that I had come upon Thailand-based artist MUEBON. Then the following day, on Sunday, I unexpectedly came upon him at work at JMZ Walls In Bushwick. What were the odds? Call it street art karma!

Pictured above is the artist at work on the Lower East Side. Several more photos I captured this past weekend follow:

Earlier on  — on the LES

At work at JMZ Walls in Bushwick

Another character at JMZ Walls

With Ana Candelaria at JMZ Walls

Photo credits: 1-5 Ana Candelaria 6. Alberto, JMZ Walls

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Curated by Bianca Romero, the new Lombardy Walls is a delightful addition to East Williamsburg’s visual landscape, bringing color and charisma to what was once a banal North Brooklyn block. The huge mural featured above was painted by Brooklyn-based Bianca Romero in what has become her distinctly infectious signature style. What follows are several more artworks that surfaced this summer for the first edition of Lombardy Walls.

Brooklyn-based Dain on door

Street art veteran and Robots Will Kill founder Chris RWK

Harlem-based Marthalicia Matarrita

Chicago-based Czr Prz

  Filipino artist Jappy Lemon, currently based in NYC, does Spiderman

Will Power and Albertus Joseph do OlDirty Bastard

Lombardy Walls is located at Lombardy Street and Porter Avenue.

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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Working with paintbrush in hand, award-winning Manhattan-based artist Miguel Diego Colón recently brought his skills and vision to First Street Green Art Park. After he had finished his mural, I posed a few questions to him:

Although your artwork surfaced publicly this past year on a huge billboard near the Kings Plaza Shopping Center, this was the first time you actually painted in public. What was that experience like?

It was amazing! I loved interacting with passersby who stopped to watch me. I loved hearing people’s interpretations of what I was doing. And I felt flattered when people took photos of the mural and of me while I was painting.

All of your images reference some kind of economic or social injustice. How did you decide which images to incorporate into your mural?

I researched online the term “social justice.” I then visually interpreted particular issues that stood out…that particularly mattered to me.

And so the overall theme of your mural is social justice — or the lack of it.

Yes. I am concerned with oppression of all kinds…what it means to have one’s rights taken away.

Is there any particular segment of the mural that you especially like? 

One of my favorite segments is the image of the couple embracing during the collapse of a sweatshop. I like the way it represents connection — the way people can connect, especially during trying times.

What’s ahead?

I’m currently applying for a number of grants. And I would love, of course, more opportunities to paint in public spaces. I’m also working in my Fountain House Gallery studio on a painting modeled on my First Street Green Art Park mural, “Liberty’s Last Embrace.”

It sounds great! Good luck with it all! And, thank you, Jonathan Neville and First Street Green Art Park.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky. Photos by Lois Stavsky

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Born and based in the Italian town of Civitanova Marche, the wonderfully talented multidisciplinary artist Giulio Vesprini will be bringing his vision here to NYC this coming week. A brief interview with the artist follows:

You’ve studied art formally at the Academy of Fine Arts in Macerata and at the Department of Architecture in Ascoli Piceno. What spurred you to turn your talents to public spaces?

My two greatest passions are graphics and architecture. And thanks to the outstanding teachers I had in both disciplines, I came up with a way to combine my passions: archigraphia. I view painting in public spaces as a superior expression of art.

When and where did you first paint in a public space?

I started painting when I was fourteen yeas old. It was back in 1994. Using two old spray cans, I painted a big face on an abandoned wall. It seemed really ugly!  I didn’t know what I was doing, but it was fun doing it. I felt free, and it was a wonderful feeling!  At that moment, I understood that the wall was my only true canvas. 

Your work seems to straddle the lines between graphic design, fine art and street art. Can you tell us a bit about your process? Do you work with a sketch in hand or just let it flow?

Each one of my works is planned in terms of the space that will hold it. I always combine graphic language with the language of architecture. I always bring with me a drawing, along with some landscape photos. I feel that every street artist has to consider the site on which he is working — in terms of its distinct story and locale. Urban art should fuse with the specific space and not prevail over it. 

Have you collaborated with other artists?  Are there any artists out there with whom you’d like to collaborate?

Yes, I have collaborated with many others street artists. Among my most interesting collaborations were those with Aris and 108, two italian street artists. I’d like to paint with MOMO and Rubin415. I very much like their styles, and I think that they have a perfect understandng of architecture.

Have you exhibited your work in gallery settings? If so, where?

I’ve exhibited in Milan, Florence and in Bologna. Now I wish to show my art works in galleries in other countries — like Germany and France. I dream of having a show in the United States.

What’s ahead?  

I’ll be in NYC from August 5 though August 22. I am excited to be painting at rag & bone on East Houston Street, and I look forward to other opportunities to paint in NYC, as well. In September, I will be in France for an international street art festival and then off to projects in Rome, Turin and others Italian cities.

Photos

1  Mural for school in Civitanova Marche, Italy for project cordinated by Vedo a Colori

2  Final wall for the second edition of the Manufactory Project in Comacchio, Italy

3  Final wall for the Pennelli Ribelli Festival in Bologna, Italy

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; photos courtesy of the artist

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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The following guest post is by Houda Lazrak

Earlier this year, I visited Waterford, Ireland, the country’s oldest city — approximately 100 miles south of Dublin. Best known for its exquisite crystal, Waterford has also become, in recent years, a street art destination. Using the arts to rejuvenate urban space, its annual street art festival, Waterford Walls, has transformed Waterford into Ireland’s largest and most accessible outdoor gallery. 

While there, I had a chance to meet Waterford Walls founder, Edel Tobin, at its headquarters, and speak with the nonprofit’s Assistant Project Manager, Gabe McGuinness, as we strolled the streets together:

You are based in an interesting building right in the center of the city. What an ideal location!  How did it become the site for your offices?

Yes, it’s great! The building was donated by a local family. They wanted to see what we can do with it to develop the arts in Waterford. 

Lucky you! The festival was initiated a few years ago in 2015. How many walls have you produced since?

We are up to 180 walls at this point. And we try not to paint over any previous ones.  

Why Waterford?

It started with a community garden project spearheaded by Edel.  From there, she got the ball rolling to showcase public art.

How did you become involved? 

I came to visit the festival one year, absolutely loved the project and applied for a job!

Can you tell us something about your background?

My background is in archaeology and geography. I am interested in integrating the arts with these disciplines. I also studied cultural policy and arts management. I’ve produced music festivals, and I’ve done production management for short films.

Just when does the Waterford Walls festival take place? And what goes on during it?

The festival takes place annually at the end of August. This year it will be held from August 22-25. We invite artists to paint, of course, but we also host other activities — such as panel discussions and talks on themes around public space. And we organize children’s workshop and set up live music events, among other things. 

Which neighborhood does the festival take place in?

In the first years it was in the city center. Starting last year, we expanded and brought it up to a hillier part of the city called Ballybricken. 

How do you go about finding and selecting artists?

We invite two or three headliners each year, and we also have an open call. Artists are encouraged to apply to the open call, which is generally held from September – December. The  selection committee then determines the final roster. We have hosted artists from all around the world and Waterford-based artists  — like Caoilfhionn Hanton — as well.

Is there an overarching theme each year?

No, there is no brief for artists. We ask them to create something based on what Waterford represents to them. We encourage them to spend time in the city before painting to seek inspiration from the local culture and history. Some of the common themes are: nature and animals, Irish folktales, Vikings, marine-related motifs and the famous Waterford Crystal factory.

What has been the impact of the festival on Waterford?

It has helped develop O’Connell Street as cultural quarter of the city. It has encouraged creative industries to come into Waterford. We also do focus groups with community members and ask what they would like to see. Their input serves as a basis for our five-year plan. Like I said, we’ve focused on the city center, but we want to expand to bring public art to the outskirts, as well. 

And what about the locals? How have they responded?

We’ve gotten a lot of support from the Waterford community! Some of the hotels give us free storage space during the festival and local businesses offer lunch to the artists. We also get emails from people saying they want to give us walls for the festival. Unfortunately, many walls are made of pebbledash, or roughcast, so the surface is tricky to work with. It’s basically plaster with pebbles thrown on it. They are okay for abstract murals, but details don’t work well. There are also local businesses who want to sponsor walls, so they pay for the entire production cost. Some of the murals have also been totally appropriated by the Waterford residents. The seated elephant by Louis Masai, for instance, is adored! There would probably be protests if it were removed!

What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered in seeing such a momumental project through?

We are well-known among artists but not by the general public. Most people in the next big town over, Cork, don’t even know about us. We are trying to change that. We started doing weekly guided tours on Saturdays from April to November, and we offer private tours, as well, for tourists or other visitors. We also host tours for schools interested in branching out of the more traditional Celtic art taught in class. Another, more practical, challenge is that artists often request walls without windows, which are hard to come across! The festival is also a non-profit, so it relies heavily on sponsorship. The last two years we’ve been sponsored by German Montana, but it’s tough to find funding. More and more people are coming to Waterford specifically for the murals, though, so that helps with fundraising. 

Yes! Myself included! The murals brought me here to Waterford! We wish you the best for the future. And we are looking forward to the 2019 edition! 

Images

1 Glasgow-based Australian artist Smug, Portrait of Waterford Walls curator, Louise Flynn

2 UK-born, Johannesburg-based Sonny Sundancer

3 The itinerant American muralist Arcy

4 Irish artist Shane O’Malley 

5 Waterford-based artist Caoilfhionn Hanton 

6 The French Monkey-Bird Crew

7 London-based Louis Masai

8 Dublin-based Ominous Omin

Photos and interview by Houda Lazrak

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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I came upon Ramón Amorós‘s delightfully playful aesthetic while street art-hunting in Madrid’s Malasaña neighborhood. I recently had the opportunity to pose some questions to the gifted Madrid-based Argentine artist who will be visiting the US this week.

You are primarily an illustrator. What stirred you to take your characters to the streets?

I’ve been drawing all my life. While studying for my Fine Arts degree, I took a class in wall painting. That was the first time I had a chance to see one of my characters on a large scale. A bit later, while taking an illustration course, I became friends with a couple of guys — including Sr Val and PoyoFrito — who were into graffiti, and I began to be much more aware of walls as an interesting artistic format. So it all began out of the simple desire to see my drawings on a bigger scale. I also really enjoy the dialogue that the public space allows between my work and the people around it.

Your characters are wildly imaginative. Can you tell us something about them? What inspires them? Where do your ideas come from?

Well, the aspect of drawing I most enjoy is making things up…creating stuff that doesn’t or can’t exist. To me that is the most fascinating quality of representation. I have always been keen on characters of all kinds…monsters, creatures, animals. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been interested in animals; my mom used to get me all kinds of books about them — the weirder, the better. Later on, I began mixing different animal parts together to create my own. I enjoy studying features — eyes, noses, mouths — separately to see how I can combine them together to make them look funny or weird.

How have folks responded to seeing your characters in public spaces?

Surprisingly well! Painting in public spaces allows a closeness with viewers that few art forms permit. It brings people closer  — to praise the artwork or even to complain about it. It starts a conversation. I have always had good experiences. I love children’s reactions to my paintings, but what most surprises me is when older folks approach me and say how much they enjoy my work. This is something that I would have never thought possible, as I think of my style as one that appeals to young people. It’s fantastic that public space enables these kinds of conversations to happen!

I came upon your work in Madrid. Have you painted in other cities? 

I usually enjoy painting when I travel. I left a couple of small pieces in Brazil, Senegal and  — more recently — in Israel. I like the idea of leaving a mark in places I enjoy, and I also love the exchange between art, hospitality and the human connection that can come out of it.

When you paint outside, do you work from a sketch? 

Yeah. I usually want to know what the final result will look like. But I also enjoy some space for improvisation to keep things fresh. I usually add a lot of shading and details through lines or dots, and that gives a lot of room for small changes, corrections or additions that happen on the spot.

What’s ahead? 

Right now, I would like to develop my personal work further. I want to take on bigger walls and more ambitious projects. I’d like to connect with galleries and with more artists for collaborations outside of Madrid. I am getting ready to head to the US — to  NYC, San Francisco, LA and New Orleans. I will be in NYC from the 5th to the 16th,

That sounds great! Good luck with it all!

Photo credits: 1-4 Courtesy of the artist; 5 Lois Stavsky; interview Lois Stavsky

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Just a few blocks from the Kings Plaza Shopping Center in Flatbush, Brooklyn, a huge, beautifully-crafted, provocative billboard greets passersby. I’d met the artist, Miguel Diego Colón, several months ago in the studio he shares with other Fountain House artists in the Silks Building in Long Island City. At the time he was working on the images he’d planned to incorporate into this project. I recently had the opportunity to catch up with him and find out more about this ambitious venture:

What an impressive, powerful mural “Stand Up” is!  Can you tell us something about its theme? Its intent?

I was interested in creating a public mural that reflects the many forms of oppression that I have faced and have observed in my community here in New York City. Among these are: the destructive forces of racism, sexism, inequality, and the stigma against those struggling with mental illness. It is my way of providing solidarity with others who are oppressed.

Did any specfic recent events or incidents spur you to focus on these themes of inequality and resistance?

I had heard about a photographer who had been slammed to the ground at a Trump rally. And that had me thinking about all the bullying that has been taking place at various Trump rallies and the importance of  “standing up.”

How were you able to access such a huge, visible space?

Betty Eastland, a peer-specialist and artist, working at Fountain House Studio had sent me a link to 14×48, a non-profit project that repurposes vacant billboards as public art spaces. 14×48‘s mission is to create opportunities for artists to engage with public art. I sent 14×48 a sketch, along with a proposal, and examples of other paintings on the theme of social justice. I was amazed when I found out that I had been selected.

How long did you work on “Stand Up?”

About five months. Once I was ready to paint, I constructed stretcher bars. I then started with graissaile before adding paint.

This was your first public mural. How have folks responded to it?

Everyone has been so supportive. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.

What’s next?

 I would love to create more work in public spaces. I think of it as an audition to do more public works. And I’d love to bring my vision to Manhattan. Times Square would be ideal!

Yup! That would be great! And congratulations on “Stand Up.”

Photo credits: 1, 3 & 4 Courtesy of the artist; 2, 5 & 6 Lois Stavsky

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Note: To find out more about Miguel–his educational background, influences, personal circumstances — you can read an extended interview here.

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Conceived and curated by Ad Hoc Art, the Welling Court Mural Project has been transforming Welling Court and its neighboring blocks in Astoria, Queens for the past decade. Featured above are the works of See One and Hellbent who once again shared their talents with us in this community-driven project. Several more images that Ana Candelaria and I captured this past Sunday follow:

 Roberto Castillo and Kork93

 Jeromy Velasco in memory of the Stonewall Riots’ 50th anniversary —  for NYC Pride with the LISA Project NYC

The legendary Greg Lamarche aka SP.ONE 

Queens-based Free5 captured at work

And an hour later

Never Satisfied

Joe Iurato pays homage to Keith Haring 

Welling Court Mural Project founder and curator Garrison Buxton for NYC Pride with the LISA Project NYC (close-up from huge mural) — and Yes One and more graffiti art below

Photo credits: 1, 4, 6, 9 & 10 Lois Stavsky; 2, 3, 5 & 7 Ana Candelaria 

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Underhill Walls — a  model grassroots project in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Prospect Heights —  has once again morphed. This time it is a canvas for 17 diversely enchanting murals reflecting the theme Urban Jungle. While visiting it last week, I had the opportunity to pose a few questions about Underhill Walls— its origins and more — to its indefatigable curator, Jeff Beler.

Underhill Walls continues to bring so much intrigue and beauty to this neighborhood. When did this project first begin?

The first set of murals surfaced here — at St. Johns Pl. and Underhill Avenue — back in the fall of 2015.

How were you able to access these walls? The concept is brilliant. It reminds me of the Centre-fuge Public Art Project that for years transformed an East Village eyesore — a neglected DOT trailer — into a rotating open-air street art gallery.

I live nearby, and I had been eyeing those walls for 10 years. They’d been ravaged by a fire, and they’d been neglected. I eventually contacted the owner of the three-floor abandoned building who was open to the concept of beautifying the property.

And then what? How did the actual transformation take place?

I started to put a team together. The first step was to build panels. And the first artists to participate in the project back in 2015 were: UR New York, Fumero, Badder Israel, Raquel Echanique, Col Wallnuts and Sienide.

Did you collaborate with any organizations at the time?

For our first project, we coordinated with the non-profit Love Heals. Titled “What’s Your Sign? Mural Project,” our first project’s mission was to raise public awareness for the HIV/AIDS crisis among  Black and Latino youth.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in seeing this project through these past few years?

Selecting artists with the right chemistry to work together. When that happens, everything flows smoothly and beautifully. And this is exasctly how “Urban Jungle” played out.

How often do the murals change?

Twice a year. Every May and October. Since 2015, we’ve had nine rotations.

What’s ahead?

So long as the panels are here, we will be here! And each project will continue to reflect a distinct theme.

Fabulous!

Images

1  Oscar Lett

2  Justin Winslow

Ralph Serrano (L) and Giannina Gutierrez (R) 

4  Jaima and Marco Santini collaboration

5  Nassart

6  Jeff Beler

7  Android and Miishab collaboration

8  Majo

Interview with Jeff conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; photos by Lois Stavsky

Keep posted to StreetArtNYC Instagram for more recent images from Underhill Walls.

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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Based in Bari in the South of Italy, Nico Skolp is a masterful designer, graffiti writer and muralist with a particular passion for working in public spaces. As he readies to visit and share his talents with us in New York City, I had the opportunity to pose a few questions to him:

You began painting on the streets as a graffiti writer while still a teenager. How has your style evolved since?

I still paint graffiti, but I am always searching for new inspiration. I’m interested in the possibility of communicating with a larger audience — one outside of the graffiti community. My murals blend shapes and colors into elaborate site-specific abstractions. Although graffiti is composed of  letters, it is more difficult to understand and more abstract than some other types of art. It is an interesting paradox!

You’ve been increasingly collaborating with other artists. What is that experience like? Is there any artist — in particular — with whom you’d like to collaborate?

I like collaborations. I like sharing visions and methods. It helps sharpen skills. If I could choose anyone with whom to collaborate, I would definitely say MOMO. His works are so interesting!  I admire his research and his experimentation.

Have you a formal art education? 

I graduated  with a degree in Industrial and Communication Design. In fact, I feel more like a designer than an artist. In 2006, I set up a visual arts and design agency, Ff3300.

Do any particular graffiti/street art memories stand out?

There is no one memory — in particular — that stands out. But I feel that my crew — Sorry Guys — contributed to the growth of a new generation of writers. Younger writers often enthusiastically tell me how much we have influenced them, as they grew up following us. It is an honor to think that I have inspired other writers, as  others — who came before me — inspired me.

When you paint in public spaces, do you work with a sketch-in-hand or just let it flow?

It depends. If the work is a commission, frequently I must first produce a sketch. Otherwise, I don’t, but I do seek inspiration beforehand. I used to work spontaneously, but recently, I’ve been using a method based on the rules that represent my style. It was from my style that the software open-source — based on shapes that are controlled by certain variables — was conceived. With these, you can make infinite compositions. You can download the software here. I designed it with Piero Molino, a close friend — an engineer who works for UBER in San Francisco.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

In general, yes! I’m satisfied, but I’m always striving to improve. Technically, I think I’m at a good level, The skills I have acquired have boosted my self-confidence. I’m happy with my life choices.

Have you exhibited your work in gallery settings? 

I’ve never had a solo exhibition. I’ve just contributed canvases to some graffiti exhibitions such as the one held at the 2010 Meeting of Styles in Tessalonica, Greece.  I’ve been thinking recently about showing in a solo exhibition and hopefully start with one in Bari. I love this city and it is where it all started for me. It has recently become a hub for tourism, and I love the idea of making a cultural contribution to it. 

What’s ahead?

I just finished my latest work in Matera, the 2019 Capital of Culture in Europe, and I’m heading now to  New York City, where I’d like to explore its urban art culture and make a contribution — why not a wall? — to the city! I will make myself available for any opportunities.

Yes! That would be wonderful!

Note: Nico Skolp can be contacted via his Instagram or his email nicoff3300@gmail.com.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; all images courtesy of the artist

Featured images:

  1. Matera, Italy
  2. Bari, Italy
  3. Bari, Italy
  4. Corato, Italy
  5. Matera, Italy

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